Wechat Voice

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By Zara Zhang

Analyst at GGV Capital

WeChat has a voice message function that allows you to press a button and record your message. For the uninitiated, this is just another way of sending messages that’s interchangeable with text messages. However, sending a voice message on WeChat is considered obnoxious in the Chinese professional world, and usually only tolerated if it is sent from a superior to a subordinate.

Why is that?

Many professionals in China use WeChat, not email, as the primary medium for workplace communication. A chat situation like the one below is guaranteed to infuriate the recipient:

Imagine receiving a 60-second audio message from someone on Slack.

Wechat voice call no ringtone

If you’re in a noisy place (e.g., a networking event or a party), you have to strain your ears or find a quiet place to hear it. If you’re in a library, you have to dig up your headphones. If you’re in a meeting, you have to wait until the meeting is over. Fully taking in the message requires careful listening and sometimes even transcription.

Worse, the message content doesn’t live anywhere in textual form so nothing mentioned will be searchable in the future. Audio messages also cannot be forwarded.

(Note: WeChat does have a function to automatically convert audio messages into text messages if you hold a bubble down. But this only works in the simplified Chinese version of the WeChat app. And the conversion may not be accurate if the sender speaks a Chinese dialect or has a strong accent.)

Moreover, WeChat does not support pausing in the middle of playing a voice message or scrubbing the audio to jump to another point in time. If you miss one important word, you must replay the whole message from the very beginning. Receiving voice messages also takes up more data, which could incur costs if the recipient doesn’t have wifi.

Sending someone a voice message—instead of typing it out—tells them: “I’m obviously busier and more important than you.” The sender saves time—at the recipient’s expense. Thus it is almost always used in asymmetric relationships: when a boss is communicating a directive to a subordinate, for example.

So, do not send voice messages on WeChat in a professional situation unless you are communicating with people who clearly consider you to be their boss. Even if you are sending a very long message, type it out—and type it in one long message instead of in multiple short sentences. This reduces the number of times the recipient’s phone vibrates and saves them battery life.

If you have to send voice messages for special reasons (e.g., you are driving and the message is urgent, or if your fingers are broken and you cannot type), begin with an apology and communicate that you have no other choice.

While the microphone button is tempting, stick to the keyboard.

Wechat Voice Call No Ringtone

This post originally appeared on Zara’s blog. Zara co-hosts a biweekly podcast on tech in China called 996 By GGV Capital, and co-authors an email newsletter on the same subject. This article is part of Quartz Ideas, our home for bold arguments and big thinkers.

Now WeChat has become an indispensable tool for Chinese people in their life and work, but in the process of sending WeChat, some behaviors are easily annoying. Sometimes Chinese people will step on these minefields, let alone foreigners. Like interpersonal communication, in reality, WeChat also has etiquette. These potential rules will help us use WeChat better, writing in the correct etiquette for the Mandarin Chinese language.

How these messages read in ‘Chinese’

The fake smile

Officially this just represents a friendly smile, but the actual meaning in Chinese would be “I don’t want to keep talking with you, but I’m afraid it’s impolite not to reply, so give you an embarrassed and polite smile. It’s a hugely fake smile, that’s how Chinese people would see it.

Advice: When you chat with others, especially Chinese people, you can use more of these smiles/emojis:

“Bye” emoji

The official meaning of this emoji on WeChat is ‘bye’, but in the Chinese language, this’ll mean “I don’t want to talk to you” or “Let’s not be friends”, or “I want to be alone for a while”.

The Sarcastic laugh

In Mandarin Chinese, “呵呵” (hēhē) is a sarcastic laugh. You can check our Beyond Class episode about this on our YouTube channel. The initial meaning of this smiley is “Feel happy;smile”, but the meaning to Chinese people is of scorn and distain: “I don’t want to talk to you.”

The “èn” and “ò”

Replying with the Chinese particles “嗯(èn)” or “哦(ò)” on WeChat come across as disdainful too, as if you don’t want to talk to the other person. The recipient on WeChat will think: “Oh, I wrote so many words to communicate to you, and wait for you, only to receive an “èn” and “ò” from you: what do you mean?” Advice: If you really want to use these two Chinese words on WeChat, it’s better to say ‘嗯嗯ènèn’ or ‘哦哦òò’. Although the difference is only one word, it will give people a kind feeling and make them feel that you are very warm and willing to continue talking.

The most annoying way to start a chat on WeChat in Chinese

VoiceText

‘Are you there?’‘Are you busy?’‘Are you free?’’How are you?’

When you see this message, everyone will feel nervous and cranky. They will wonder ‘what are you doing? ’‘Should I say yes or no?’ .So if you have something to ask someone, you’d better tell him directly. You can also say something quickly after ask ‘Are you there?’, or the other party will have a sense of fear.

Wechat Voice Message

Send a lot of long voice messages

Some people like to use WeChat chat with voice messages, and every voice message time takes a long time. In fact, this kind of behavior is annoying, especially at work, and while convenient for the sender, it’s really inconvenient to the recipient. But if you really want to use voice messages, it’s best to ask others: ‘is it convenient to listen to voice messages?’ After getting a positive answer from others, you can send a voice message. (Voice messages are a great way to practice your Chinese speaking ability though!)

Although the etiquette of WeChat is a convention of young Chinese people, it is not as formal as it is in real life. But it’s enough to be able to maintain smooth communication in work and life and to take care of the emotional feelings of both sides of the communication after we know something about it.